One of the most difficult questions I get from people is when they ask me to recommend a book. Which sounds strange; as a book blogger, that should be the easiest part of my job, right?
In a world where so many incredible stories are constantly being churned out every day, it’s not easy to pick a favorite or even one that everyone will love. Still, there are a few books that I do believe everyone should read at least once in their lives. Here’s my list of the most recommended books for young adult and adult readers alike.
Most Recommended Books For Young Adults And Adults
Before I start, today’s blog post is actually a prompt from Top 10 Tuesday, a weekly bookish meme originally created by The Broke and The Bookish and now currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.
I don’t usually participate in Top 10 Tuesday on a regular basis, but this week’s topic is one that I absolutely adore, so without further ado, here are my top most recommended books. I tried my best to pick books that I think will have the most impact on readers, especially young readers because books have the power to heal us and change the way we experience our realities.
Many of the books in this list have helped me overcome my own inner demons and trauma, while others have helped me understand the real world in a way I never would have otherwise. If you choose to read any of the books I mentioned here, I hope you love them as much as I did too.
1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Coming Of Age, Social Justice Trigger Warnings: police shooting, death of a friend, flashbacks to childhood trauma, racism, racial profiling, implied domestic violence.
A heart-wrenchingly beautiful, eye-opening story of a young girl who witnesses her friend being murdered at the hands of a police officer, The Hate U Give is one of those fiction novels that is 100% rooted in our current reality. It’s not just a thoughtful exploration of racial discrimination, classism, and hate crime; it’s also a celebration of black culture, and most importantly, a book where young black teens can see some of their own experiences reflected and be able to relate to them.
It’s no wonder that there have been attempts to ban this book. It’s no wonder that this book caused a lot of controversy. Books that address real problems in our society almost always cause a riot. For these reasons alone, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is number one on my list of most recommended books.
2. Simon Vs The Homosapien’s Agenda
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Romance, Coming Of Age, LGBTQ Trigger Warnings: Public Outing, Bullying, Homophobia, Blackmail
One of the cutest books to melt my cynical ice cold heart, Simon vs The Homosapien’s Agenda is on my list of most recommended books for young adults and adults who are still finding themselves and deciding on how they want the world to view them. At times funny, at times heartbreaking, Simon vs The Homosapien’s Agenda explores all the awkwardness of being a teenager with a secret crush, figuring out who, how, and when (or if ever) you want to come out, and embracing your true self.
3. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Coming Of Age Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Suicidal Thoughts, Bullying, False Accusation, Depression
I don’t think there is a single book written by Laurie Halse Anderson that I will not recommend. She is a brilliant writer whose words have saved me more times than I can count, but Twisted is the one that I am going to keep on my list of most recommended books, if only because this one focuses on the experiences of a suicidal, depressed teenage boy who is eventually false accused of distributing nude photos of his crush. It questions what it truly means to be a man and explores toxic masculinity long before the concept even became a buzzword in our society.
And though this book focuses more on the experiences of a geeky, awkward, teenage boy transitioning into a handsome-ish, young man, Tyler’s struggles with suicide and depression, and his emotional sensitivity are what make the story so incredibly fascinating to read.
4. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Coming Of Age, LGBTQ+ Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Suicidal Thoughts, Bullying, Homophobia, Depression, Sexual Assault, Incest, Pedophilia, Substance Abuse
I am pretty sure most of you have already read this book, or at least watched the movie. Still, I cannot help but recommend this one to every single person who asks me what they should read next.
The best way I can describe the experience of reading The Perks of Being A Wallflower is this: it feels like having a friend talk you through all your hurt and pain and confusion and tell you that you are going to be okay.
I went into this story blind, with no idea of what to expect, and I would suggest everyone to do the same. There’s something hauntingly beautiful about the way Charlie views the world and others around him–he has an innocence and sensitivity that is both rare and yet disturbingly familiar: it’s that nostalgic innocence that we all had before we understood how cruel this world, and life itself, could be.
For this alone, I will always have The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky on my list of most recommended books for young adult and adult readers alike. This is a story for all ages, and all times.
5. The Female Of The Species by Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Feminism, Thriller, Mystery Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault, graphic violence and gore, animal death and abuse, drug use, suicide, suicidal ideation, slut shaming, pedophilia
*Excuse me for a few minutes while I go ugly cry in a corner.*
It’s impossible for me to talk about The Female Of The Species without becoming emotionally overwhelmed because this is a book that holds back zero punches. A searing criticism of rape culture, this book tackles some of the most difficult topics head-on and directly addresses the ingrained misogyny, sexism and toxic masculinity that has become a norm in our society.
But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.― Mindy McGinnis, The Female of the Species
If female rage could be encapsulated in a novel, then you would have The Female Of The Species. And if I had the power to, I’d make sure this book was required reading for every teenage boy and girl in every school in every part of the world.
6. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Genre: Young Adult, Classics
I refuse to label this as a children’s story, because I have personally read this as an adult and it changed the way I viewed my life. I cannot imagine that as a child, this book would have had any meaning for me, because like all innocent children, I had once been a dreamer, one who had believed in happy endings.
Life is a lot more messier of course, and the older I grew, the harder it was to understand why. Certain losses felt unfair, downright criminal, and it wasn’t until I came across this quote that made me remember what really mattered.
If like me, adulthood feels like a bizarre labyrinth with no way out, I would really recommend this book to you. There is so much hidden meaning and depth to the story, and to the adventures of the little prince, that you cannot help but feel both comforted and nostalgic by the time you reach the last pages.
It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
7. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult Trigger Warnings: Ableism, Bullying, Dog death
It’s more than a little difficult not to love Wonder by R. J. Palacio. An eye-opening, wholesome and incredibly heartfelt story about a 10-year-old boy with a facial difference, this is a book that reminds you just how life changing it can be to reach out to a human being and try to put yourself in their shoes, instead of turning a blind eye to their experiences.
I expected this book to be heartbreaking, because of the subject matter…and on more than one occasion this book did make me sob uncontrollably. BUT, here’s the strange thing: by the time I had reached the end of the book, I was weeping tears of joy. This story, though fiction, just shows how even the smallest acts of love can have a bigger and better impact than any act of indifference or casual cruelty.
8. North Of Beautiful by Justina Chen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance Trigger Warning: Domestic Abuse. Adoption, Divorce, Body Dysmorphia
One of the very first young adult novels I ever read, The North Of Beautiful by Justina Chen has a very special place in my heart. It’s a beautifully written story about a teenager with a port-wine stain on her face, a disruptive, broken family at home, and how she slowly learns to accept herself and deal with her trauma head-on.
While it’s been nearly a decade since I last read this book, I still remember how much the story affected me; especially the parts where the main character talks about her father’s anger and how it affected each and every member of her family. I loved how by the end of the book, it’s not just her who changes; her mother, too, transforms into a strong woman unafraid to stand up for herself.
Since I still recall feeling absolutely transformed by this book 10 years later, I have it on my list of most recommended books for young adults, though I might need to revisit this one sometime soon and write a better review.
9. The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ+ Trigger Warning: Abortion (mentioned), Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse, Homophobia, Cancer, Divorce, Racism, Sexism, Sexually explicit scenes. Statutory rape, Suicide (mentioned)
There aren’t words enough to describe what a gem this book is, but somehow I did manage to explain it in my review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. An incredibly captivating novel set in the gilded world of 50’s Hollywood glamor, this book is a careful examination of women’s sexuality, class differences, racism, the unfair difference in power dynamics between men and women, and perhaps the most painful–what it really means to be a family.
It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.― Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
While not without its faults, I would definitely keep The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo on my list of most recommended books, because it is such a layered, thoughtfully written story that opens the floor for all kinds of important conversations about identity, race, and sexuality.
10. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gayle Honeyman
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQ+ Trigger Warning: Abuse (domestic, parental, psychological), Alcohol/Substance abuse, Death, Depression, Fire, Manipulation, Mental breakdown, Mental institution (Referenced), Sexual assault, Workplace harassment
Now here is a book that I didn’t think I would love much at all when I first read it. In fact, I almost DNF’d it after the first 10 pages.
So why is it on my list of most recommended books?
After struggling through the first few pages, I finally understood just how phenomenal the story would be. I realized that it was difficult to read from Eleanor’s perspective because her mind is not supposed to be an easy place to be. Eleanor is not like you and me, she is a young woman with severe emotional trauma, and the more she opened up to me with each turning of the page, the more I realized that I wanted to understand her. By the time I was about a quarter in, I was desperate to see her have some kind of happy ending.
For anyone who has struggled with PTSD, or any other kind of mental health issues, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the kind of book that will make you realize you are not alone in your experiences.
There are chapters that will make you laugh, there are chapters that will make you cry, and there are chapters that will leave you horrified. And since that’s exactly how life is for those of us with demons in our closets, this book rightfully deserves its place on my list of most recommended books for young adult and adult readers alike.
And that, my friends, is a wrap-up of my most recommended books. I had a lot of fun with this one, so I might end up making more of these “most recommended book lists” for different genres in the future. If you have any you would love to add to the list, share them in the comments below!